Today, we are pleased to have a special guest contributor to Amistad’s blog. Khatumu Tuchscherer is twelve-years-old and will be entering 7th grade this year in Plainsboro, New Jersey. In this blog post, Khatumu relates a recent visit to a site associated with the history of the Amistad Case. Thanks to Khatumu’s father, Konrad Tuchscherer, for letting us relate her story. Included are some photos and a short video.
Foone’s Grave by Khatumu Tuchscherer
On July 5, 2013, I visited the gravesite of Foone, one of the men from Sierra Leone who fought for his freedom onboard the historic Amistad. It was a beautiful sunny day at Riverside Cemetery and I searched for the gravesite, only knowing that I could find it somewhere between an old Native American monument and a World War II memorial. After searching for about a half an hour, I finally found Foone’s grave and I was ecstatic. This was especially exciting for me because I am Sierra Leonean (Mende) too, just like I am an American, born in NYC.
Foone was captured by two men in 1838 on the way to attend to his rice fields, which was one of his daily routines. Foone was born in Bumbe (now written as Bumpe) in Mendi (now written as Mende) country. At the time of his capture in 1838 he had a wife, brothers, sisters, parents, and a king by the name of Kabandu all still living. Foone was a man of a short build at 5’2” but had a “Herculean frame.” He was a farmer who grew rice and other such crops. After his capture in Bumbe he was carried to Bembelaw, in the Vai country, and sold to a Spaniard named Luiz, who kept him there for two months before he took Foone to Lomboko. Lomboko was the notorious slave trade complex in the Gallinas (southern Sierra Leone) operated by Pedro Blanco and the African King Siaka. Once sold, Foone was put upon the Tecora for Cuba where he and the other Africans were landed at Havana. From Havana, the Africans were put onboard the schooner Amistad in order to be moved to another part of the island called Puerto Principe. It was on this trip when the men onboard had a rebellion and afterwards set sail back to Africa. But their intention to sail back to Africa ended when they were caught near Long Island when they tried to replenish supplies.
While the case of the Amistads was being argued before the Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams, the Amistad captives lived in Farmington, Connecticut. It was in Farmington that, very sadly, Foone drowned on August 7, 1841, while bathing. A local doctor tried to revive Foone to no avail.
The story of Foone is both happy and sad in one because he fought for his freedom and achieved just that, but died tragically before seeing his family again back in Sierra Leone.
Foone’s limestone grave marker reads:
“FOONE A native African who was drowned while bathing – in the Center Basin Aug, 1841. He was one of the Company of slaves under Cinque on board the Schooner Amistad who asserted their rights and took possession of the vessel after having put the Captain, Mate, and others to death, sparing their Masters, Ruez and Montez.”
I did a gravestone rubbing of this, gently rubbing a thin white paper on the face of the grave with an indigo colored crayon. I will send the original to the Amistad Research Center, since this is the best way to record the size of the grave and the way it really looks. The face of the grave is hard to read today, after 172 years since it was created, so in another 100 years it may be impossible to read.
For more information on Foone and the Amistads, please see the information I used for my report:
Abraham, Arthur. The Amistad: An Historical Legacy of Sierra Leone and the United States. Freetown, Sierra Leone: United States Information Service, 1987.
Barber, John Warner, comp. A History of the Amistad Captives. New Haven, CT: E.L. & J.W. Barber, 1840. [available online at: http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/barber/barber.html].
Rediker, Marcus. The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom. New York: Viking Press, 2012.
Post by Christopher Harter.
(Photos by Konrad Tuchscherer. May not be reproduced without permission.)